- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2001

In the modern college residence hall, privacy is a luxury item that can't be bought at the bookstore.
So students take the opposite tack they build their living quarters so as to be as accessible to their floor mates as possible.
That's the impression following a recent visit to George Washington University's Mabel Nelson Thurston Hall on its Foggy Bottom campus.
Residents of the freshman residence hall, who live two, three or four to a room, make their spaces both open and inviting to their peers.
Michelle Cassis, 18, from Massachusetts, embraces the communal spirit of her new home.
"We always leave the door open," Miss Cassis says. But to keep passersby from getting too much of an eyeful, her bunk beds are draped by animal prints to maintain a modicum of solitude.
The rooms in the George Washington residence hall are a bit messy upon inspection.
Drawers remain opened, cables snake across the floor and message boards stand chockablock with information both silly and useful.
Stackable items are big, from milk crates to slick plastic creations sold in Target and other shops. These items take up little room but manufacture plenty of space. No two room layouts are the same. The beds may stand lengthwise along the walls, jut out into the common area or do a combination of both.
Anyone who spent time in a dormitory, whether a few years or maybe even decades ago, might be surprised how similar in spirit today's college living quarters appear. The biggest change is that one would be hard pressed to find a room without multiple computer ports and monitors blazing with electronic life.
The essence remains quite similar, according to the parents who dropped their sons and daughters off at George Washington a few weeks ago, says community facilitator Kim Milos, 19, of Portland, Ore.
"The first week was absolutely crazy," Ms. Milos says of the state of the typical dorm room across campus. "The rooms get gradually more creative," she says, until the final weeks of school when they resemble the residents' vision.
Mitch Biersner, an 18-year-old George Washington freshman from Iowa, says he gets design ideas from his peers.
"You keep your eye out. It's an ongoing process," Mr. Biersner says.
Posters remain a key theme in nearly every dormitory room. Mr. Biersner says oversized images of the Dave Matthews Band, along with art prints by Vincent van Gogh and Picasso, are popular among students.
Women prefer Brad Pitt posters, men cozy up to images from "The Godfather."
Some of the pop culture faces would be familiar to college students circa 1969. A glimpse at several George Washington residence halls finds the Beatles, Bob Marley and even Lucy and Ricky still welcome in students' lives.
Alec Papazian, 18, from Portland, Ore., had a similar design motif when he arrived on campus.
"All I really thought about is, I need to buy posters," Mr. Papazian says.
Moviewise, the popular posters are "Pulp Fiction," "Trainspotting," which Mr. Papazian has adorning his walls, and any film by crude auteur Kevin Smith ("Clerks," "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.")
The colorful, affordable posters aren't the only way to liven up a room. Mr. Biersner says his friends turned down the simple, patternless linens sold at the bookstore in favor of more eclectic prints found at Bed, Bath and Beyond and other retail outlets.
At Mabel Nelson Thurston Hall, the university supplies the desks, chairs and beds for most of the rooms.
Matt Sklar, 18, of Pennsylvania, arrived with simple designs in mind.
"I wanted something that was neat, clean and simple," Mr. Sklar says. He chose neutral colors, black, grays and whites for the accent colors in the room.
His closet is obscured by a black curtain, and a small black rug sits before his bed amidst the limited floor space left to cover.
John Vasquez, women's manager at Urban Outfitters in Georgetown, where several students turn for room furnishings, says color choices among college students are as varied as their favorite new bands.
Popular colors this season include light blues, oranges and deep reds. Just a year ago, though, more muted colors and darker hues ruled local campuses, he says.
Looking at the whole room, Mr. Vasquez says students vie for "the lounge-y, dorm-room thing," with an emphasis on agreeable seating.
The popular chairs are the butterfly variety, which come in a variety of hues and fold up when needed. Last year, inflatable and fuzzy type furniture filled the store.
Another popular theme amongst college students, perhaps piqued by the cult classic "Swingers," is the 1950s motif, from shakers to martini glasses to tumblers.
Other items continue to fly off the Urban Outfitter shelves.
"We always have Japanese hanging lamps," he says. This year origami-style lamps are proving popular.
Tori Wender, 18, of Rhode Island, says making a comfortable living space isn't an expensive proposition.
"When you split it four ways, it's not that bad," says Miss Wender, whose beds stand against the walls, leaving a small open area for socializing.
Part of her low-rent approach involves peppering her bed's wooden posts with pictures from home. It's a kaleidoscope of images many students mimic, and it makes the ties between their former and new lives tangible. For many, dorm life is their first time away from home.
For Miss Wender, "the posters make it feel like home," she says. "When I first got here, it felt like camp, like I wasn't going to be here long,"
For all the talk of styles, looks, comfort and practicality, only so much effort goes into each room, says Mr. Papazian.
"Girls rooms are all decorated and color-coordinated," he says. "We haven't made our beds since we got here."

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